Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. –– When a reporter on Monday asked Mike D’Antoni if he was worried about his job status, the coach tried his best to laugh it off.
“I don’t know, are you worried about yours?” D’Antoni asked.
“Always,” the reporter said.
“Well, then welcome to the club, it’s tough out there,” said D’Antoni, who is in the last year of a four-year, $24 million deal.
Entering Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks (7-13) have lost nine of their last 10 games and could again be without both Carmelo Anthony (ankle, wrist, thumb) and Baron Davis (back).
Neither practiced Monday and D’Antoni described both players as “doubtful,” but said Anthony is “always game-to-game.” He has missed the last two games while trying to recover from a series of injuries.
Davis, who has yet to play this season and said he considered retirement because of his back trouble, may have had a setback in his recovery, but D’Antoni wouldn’t go into detail about it.
“I think he’s got a little issue but nothing more,” D’Antoni said. “He needs one more day. You’ll have to ask them the medical reason, but needed one more day and then [Tuesday] he’ll gear it up and start to practice on Wednesday and then we’ll see what happens.”
The Knicks face a difficult dilemma. They have four games in five days beginning Tuesday and need both Anthony (shooting 39 percent) and Davis back as soon as possible.
But they also need those players to be completely healthy, or else they risk hurting the team and possibly facing a longer setback.
“Not having Melo is tough,” D’Antoni said. “When he gets back 100 percent, then things will be better. Not great, it wasn’t great before but it was better. And then Baron gets back, we should be where we should be and we’ll see.”
Of Davis, who practiced last Monday for the first time, D’Antoni said: “He’s ready to go now but he’s just not physically ready. He wants to play as soon as he can.”
Knicks center Tyson Chandler said the team was “anxious” to get both players back, but that Anthony and Davis must be healthy first.
“With this season, guys gotta healthy,” he said. “Especially if you’re hurt enough to take games off, then we need you to get healthy because the way these games come at us so fast if you have lingering injuries, it can create something bigger.”
Chandler, who won an NBA title last year with the Dallas Mavericks, said a healthy Knicks team can “still” contend for a title.
“In all honesty, I still feel like this is a team that can win a championship,” he said. “I feel like we definitely have the pieces. I feel like we haven’t came together yet and it’s a process. I feel like guys are going to have to step up and play roles that they’re not necessarily used to.
“When we get everybody back healthy and get everybody on the floor at one time, we can really see what we got.”
Amar’e Stoudemire said the goal was to “contend for a championship,” but added, “Right now, we’re not on track to contend so we just gotta keep getting better.”
He reiterated previous comments that some of his teammates needed to pay more attention to the pre-game scouting report on the board in the locker room in order to be prepared for games.
Stoudemire seemed to imply that some of the team’s younger players, or fringe players, might not be ready.
“It’s just a matter of us having somewhat of a young team,” he said. “It takes experience, it takes us as veterans to talk to the young guys about how important it is to pay attention to the white board and understand what the preparation is and what teams are apt to do.”
The fact that both Anthony and Davis are injured may be the only thing keeping D’Antoni as the team’s head coach.
Because there is the possibility that the Knicks might improve once they return, D’Antoni has something to fall back on.
Stoudemire said he wasn’t concerned with all the rumors surrounding the coach.
“No, not at all,” he said. “That’s up to you guys to keep it going, man, we don’t feed into it.”
Yet he does understand that the losing streak has put D’Antoni in his tenuous position.
“No, we don’t feed into it,” he said. “Our job is to go out there and try to perform and try to win. We don’t get into that he said/she said stuff.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.